08 June 2010

The Bottle Tax: Why We Hate It UPDATED

Slate, the online magazine website, has posted an interesting essay that should be of keen interest in the current debate on the proposed four-cent-a-bottle tax on most beverages in Baltimore City (exempting milk, juice, and--ridiculously, if you ask this writer--two-liter bottles of soda.

It's an interesting read into the psychology of "sin taxes:"

It should come as no surprise, then, that we have a problem with "sin taxes," such as the penny-per-ounce surcharge on sweetened beverages championed by CDC Director Thomas Frieden. Most of us would probably agree that we'd be better off if we drank less soda, but any government action designed to control consumption puts us on alert. A tax is far less likely to induce reactance than an outright ban, but we feel queasy whenever we think The Man is trying to influence our behavior. In the case of the sugar-sweetened-beverage tax, which has often been referred to as a "fat tax," our discomfort is greater because the measure seems to encourage finger-pointing. In defense of the proposal, New York Gov. David Paterson has said, "Someone has got to contribute to the $7.6 billion the state spends every year to treat diseases from obesity." Those who are not obese may feel that they should not have to pay for the "sins" of the fat people over there, the ones creating the problem. Those who are obese are likely to feel shamed and persecuted. And we all recoil at the thought of the government trying to regulate our bodies.
Interestingly, no one so far has mentioned alcohol in the Baltimore proposal.

I'm still left wondering if someone could end up suing to exempt bottled water and diet drinks from such taxation.  After all, the politicians are fast to assign a price tag to soda-assisted obesity, but I don't hear any cost mentioned for cancers supposedly caused by excess intake of saccharine, aspartame, xylitol, etc.

UPDATE:  More on the subject, including examples from a past Baltimore bottle tax, here in the Daily Record (subscription wall may go up after a point).

2 comments:

Ian Logsdon said...

The only reason that stuff is so cheap is government subsidies you know. Sugar is massively subsidized. So, really, you're getting an unnaturally cheap product. I'm not saying we should tax the bottle, I'm saying we should cut 100% of corn subsidies because corn is a wasteful crop that takes massive resources and produces almost no nutritious content, its basically empty carbohydrates.

Brandon Miller - Milhouse44 said...

I like corn. I eat it and forget about it and the next day, I remember.